Teacher Appreciation Week!

Photo Credit: Moreland Family

The mediocre teacher tells.

The good teacher explains.

The superior teacher demonstrates.

The great teacher inspires.

William Arthur Ward

This week, May 6 through May 12, is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I would like to show my deepest gratitude for the very important role all of you are performing. Whether you are the main home teacher, a co-teacher, or a provisional teacher, you need to be acknowledged, honored and thanked. You are sharing an amazing gift with your children/students!

Parenting and teaching children may be two of the hardest jobs ever experienced. It’s not always easy to share knowledge with enthusiasm. It’s not always easy to provide guidance with inspiration. It can be difficult to promote self-confidence when we may not be feeling completely confident in ourselves. It can truly be challenging to instill the love of learning and to offer wisdom while helping to prepare children for living to their fullest potential.

Journeys are never completely easy. We will be challenged with hard times and frustrating moments. However, amid the challenges, we will also experience those shining moments of complete joy and satisfaction. If we approach our teaching skills by developing a quality relationship with our students, then we will be approaching our teaching as a positive, transformative journey for all who are involved.

Photo Credit: Joyner Family

Not only do we need to honor our role as teachers, we also need to honor our children, for children can be our greatest teachers. They allow us the opportunity for personal growth. Children help us to remember our dutiful role in continuously providing the best and offering the most we can in every learning moment. We need to find that crucial balance between a loving heart and a determined mind. Being the best teacher is not the goal, because we are all humanly imperfect and incapable of such a title. However, if we strive to do the best we can, then we are being the best teacher possible in that moment. This striving is a strong testimony to the Oak Meadow’s educational philosophy of the process vs. the goal.

In all my years of teaching and guiding students, I have discovered that the most important lessons we can instill in our children is the joy of learning, the balance of life, and to never give up just because it’s hard.

I was recently reading through Oak Meadow’s guidebook, The Heart of Learningwritten by Oak Meadow’s founder, Lawrence Williams. It offers such amazing insight, inspiration and guidance. If you haven’t read it lately, I highly recommend perusing it. If you don’t own a copy of the revised and updated 40th Anniversary edition, it is available through the Oak Meadow Bookstore.

 

Planting Seeds

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Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are heading into spring and many of us are looking forward to growing vegetables in our own summer gardens. In my state we have a Cooperative Extension Service that provides lots of information and offers activities about farming in my area. With snow still on the ground, I’m dreaming of planting my garden. Since I’m in the city, I’m planning to start small this year with a few tomato plants in big pots, and some spinach and onions in a small bed. I look forward to my tiny harvest of spaghetti sauce!

pxhere.com

We know that human activity does pollute the environment and that it can cause climate changes. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one way of helping to limit climate change. We also now know that driving a car is a major cause of climate change as the car emissions release carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. One way greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced is by growing one’s own food so that driving to market doesn’t happen so often. So, planting seeds is a great start to reducing the pollution of our planet!

Photo from Pixaby

Wishful thinking doesn’t make my garden grow, so first I have to buy some seeds and soil. Since my growing season is so short, I have to start my plants indoors. Many of you using the Oak Meadow science curriculum are planting seeds, recording their growth, and also exploring and reporting on different types of soils. This website from the Smithsonian National Museum of History is awesome: Dig It! The Secrets of Soil. I compost vegetable and fruit matter so I have some good soil to start with. I’ll also purchase some organic soil from a local landscape supplier to mix in. You may have studied the plant kingdom in the Oak Meadow 6th grade science curriculum and learned the difference between gymnosperms and angiosperms. I’ll be planting some angiosperms! My south facing windows will be a perfect place for starting my plants.

This student found a good spot outside to start the seeds!

If you are planting your own garden, and when you have a break from your farming, here’s a fun game to play to maintain a sustainable farm that grows healthy crops and reduces emissions! You might also enjoy reading Thor Hanson’s book The Triumph of Seeds. Visit his website to learn more about this. 

What are you planting? What are some ways that you help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in your community?

The Nobel Prizes

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

In November of 1895, Alfred Nobel passed away and left a very large amount of his money to go toward a variety of prizes. The prizes became known as the Nobel Prizes. It was a generous beginning to yearly honor work in the sciences, literature, and those people working for peace throughout the world.

I am always most interested in The Nobel Peace Prize. Alfred Nobel’s will stated that the Peace Prize would go to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The 2017 award went to an organization, rather than one person. The Nobel Peace Prize 2017 was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). This is a world-wide partnership of organizations dedicated and focused on a nuclear weapon ban treaty for the world. What an honorable intention to free the world’s people from the use of a nuclear weapon.

In 1904 Ivan Pavlov won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Some of you may have already studied about him and his ideas. You may be studying Pavlov’s work in the Oak Meadow curriculum. On the Nobel Prize website there are educational pages that have some fun facts and games to play. The one about Ivan Pavlov is great!

It is also fascinating to watch the lectures and the award ceremonies. You can view them at: http://www.nobelprize.org/

The Plagiarism Sea!

http://www.clipartpal.com

This blog post is brought to you by our Oak Meadow teacher, Michelle Menegaz. I think you’ll enjoy it!

Hello Middle Schoolers!

This is a very important alert about the shark-infested waters of the Plagiarism Sea into which many middle school students dive at one time or another. It always starts out as a search for treasure…the quick path to a wonderfully phrased and well-edited essay or report, but quite soon, the unsuspecting student becomes tangled in strands of broken copyright seaweed and the sharks begin to circle!

From Smithsonian Magazine

As an Oak Meadow teacher, I often notice that some of a student’s writing is almost word for word the same as parts of material in the sources used. (This, by the way, is one of the reasons for including citations for all sources. If no sources are cited, I can not be sure the work is original.) It’s really important that you always write in your own words and not copy sentences or paragraphs from other sources. Copying from other sources is considered cheating, and is taken very seriously at Oak Meadow. The first time it happens teachers give a warning, and if it happens again, it will more seriously affect grades.

Please take time to read more in the Oak Meadow Parent Handbook in the section called “Original Work Guidelines.” This can go a long way towards ensuring that you avoid the weeds and sharks on the way to the true treasure…an original, well-crafted piece of writing or research. I can also recommend the Purdue OWL website. It has some very good content that you could use.

Plagiarism is a very tricky thing to define at times, since excessive paraphrasing can also be considered copying of a sort. There is definitely a learning curve about plagiarism in all its forms, especially with use of the internet. There are many reasons that students plagiarize their work. Using three reliable sources at all times and taking very brief notes from these sources can be enormously helpful. Another possible path to try would be to do the work in your own handwriting, in your own words of course, so there are not cut and paste errors.

It is extremely time consuming for an Oak meadow teacher to verify plagiarized work. Once the first warning is given, any further work that is plagiarized will need to receive a failing grade. Let’s avoid this!

In summary, here is what to do:

*Review the Original Work Guidelines in the Oak Meadow Parent Handbook

*Read the bibliography piece called Citing Your Sources

*Discuss with your parents how to use your own words

Warmly,

Michelle Menegaz, Oak Meadow teacher

 

Research!

research

research

The Oak Meadow curriculum has awesome projects as assignments that lead to investigating all sorts of things! For instance, the 7th graders can research Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, or the clothing styles of the Renaissance period. The 8th graders can spend time searching for information on immigrants, a Superior Court Judge, or a country of their choice. These types of projects are fun and interesting as students examine, explore, and research! Researching leads to learning about new things and to the discovery of new facts. That’s why finding a reliable source for research is so important.

Many of my students, when they first start using the internet for their research, aren’t quite sure where to go for reliable sources. They often find a Wiki website such as Wikipedia. (The website Wikipedia is a type of encyclopedia. There are thousands of types of Wiki websites.)

Unfortunately, a wiki website is not a reliable source for valid information. Wikipedia is an example of a wiki site in which many people can edit, collaborate, add, and delete information. There are no actual “authors” of the content. For this reason wikis are not used in schools as a reliable resource for information. Oak Meadow does not accept their use.

Oak Meadow’s teachers tell students to use other sources and will not accept wiki websites in bibliographies from the students. WHY? BECAUSE all wiki sites are created and edited by ANYONE. That’s right! ANYONE. Any person that has a computer and the internet can put information onto a wiki site.

If you are looking for reliable sites for your research, turn to the local library, your local reference librarian, or your school’s own digital library. Since Oak Meadow is a distance learning school, it does offer a digital library to all its enrolled students. If your school doesn’t have a library or a digital library, the American Library Association has the Great Websites for Kids that is a really great place to start for reliable websites.

Enjoy the researching and investigating!

 

 

9 Questions to Ask Yourself As You Consider Homeschooling

Photo Credit: Robyn Groth Oak Meadow Archives

  1. Why does homeschooling feel like a good idea? What needs are not being met well in other ways, and how might homeschooling help best meet those needs?
  2. What is my child expecting homeschooling to be like? What am I expecting homeschooling to be like? How do those two things line up?
  3. What areas of learning are easiest for my child? What areas are most challenging?
  4. What are my child’s passions and interests? How will they fit into our plan for homeschooling?
  5. What are my biggest worries about homeschooling? What are some strategies I could use to work through those things if they happen?
  6. What struggles do I predict we might have as we add homeschooling to our parent-child dynamic, and how can I anticipate and prevent them?
  7. How will I meet my own need for self-care so that I am able to give all that my child needs?
  8. What will I say to family, friends, neighbors, or strangers who are skeptical about our decision to homeschool? How will I prepare myself for such questions?
  9. Who are my homeschooling support buddies? Do I have friends, neighbors, or relatives who homeschool? If not, do I know where to find local and/ or distant homeschoolers to share experiences and ideas with?

Oak Meadow 2017 Poetry Extravaganza – Part II

Here in the Meadow, we celebrate student poetry throughout the month of April with our annual Poetry Extravaganza. We invited our enrolled students to submit their favorite original poems, and we’ll be sharing some of them here over the next few days. Enjoy!

___________________________________________________________

Chess

by Benjamin Almquist
Oak Meadow, Grade 9

Photo Credit: Vivian Harder
(Oak Meadow)

Chess
A game of strategy
Where made prodigy
Is calmness and skill
Where thrill
Comes through movement
And Thought

Life
can be a mere
Game of peer-
S with everyone
The worldpawn

Salvation
of the Castle above
Side to side
To bide
Timestress
With death far and few between
For their are only two

Death
When moves are void
No way to avoid
The impending deaththrill
Chess

“I wrote this poem for an experimental poem assignment.”

___________________________________________________________

If your only emotion was happy
by Katherine Almquist
Oak Meadow Grade 9

They have emotions
I have but one
Restricting
me

Feelings of sadness
I know none
Surprise…. I can not understand
Anger…. Passes through me as a wind through a ghost
feelings of many I know not
Happiness I know only

To me
People of many feelings are emotionless
Unless happiness is sensed
Wenst it is seen on the faces of theirs

This happiness which lights the faces of theirs
Is routine on the face of mine
Free are they
Chained am I

Photo Credit: Doughty Family
(Oak Meadow)

How
Are
Pleasantries
Possessed
In
Nature
(W)enst
Solitude (created by a single emotion)
Surpasses (the rest)?

The answer? I have not.
For only in I lives happiness
Emotions, I do not have

“I was inspired to write this poem for a Oak Meadow literature assignment. I was required to write an experimental poem and I decided on a topic that I had written about in an essay before, but made it more professional and put the concept into a poem.”

___________________________________________________________

Bunk Bed
by William Aldredge
Oak Meadow, Grade 9

High in my perch,
I gaze upon a room,
Like a monkey in a tree,
But i do not utter a sound.

For a cat has entered the room,
And like a jaguar,
It will climb up here,
And take me away,

To a world of solitude,
An icy moon,
Somewhere far off in the universe,
And then i fall asleep.

My dreams take me even further,
To a new place,
Dusty and red,
At first it seems abandoned,

Then a lone robot comes,
And sends my picture to the space people,
When the skygate opens,
And i am sucked away,

Back to the bunkbed of dreams,
Except it is a jungle,
And there is a jaguar,
And the jaguar jumps up,

And asks me,
“Are you ready?”
But then i awaken,
To a persian cat licking my face,

But it is not an awakening from the dream,
Merely an awakening to another dream,
Angels surround my bed,
And carry me off to the clouds,

Where i lay down to sleep.
But then i awaken,
To a cat licking my face,

I think it is a dream,
But no,
The cat is there,
I feel its hot breath,

So i let it be,
And it stops licking me,
But then,
Something strange happens,

It says to me,
“Come, you are not dreaming”,
So i go with it,
Off to an eternity of wonder,

But then the eternity ends,
With 42 bees,
Who sting me back to reality,
And now i am,

On a small green planet,
With a hole at the poles,
And i look inside,
To see a lamp,

It is a lampshade,
I realise,
With nobody but me,
31G-350125 is here,

And he shoves me into the planet,
I expect heat,
And receive a hard thump,
on the lamp,

So i call for the cat,
And arrives mystery,
Who takes me away,
back to the bunkbed,

And stays a while,
But then leaves,
Here comes the cat,
Who licks me to sleep,

I awaken once again,
To the cat licking my face,
I sit up and look at him,
“Your secret is safe with me”

___________________________________________________________

Paper Revolution
by Claire Kern
Oak Meadow, Grade 9

I twist the cap of my pen
between my teeth, ink
stains on molars, the page
still blank, void of words,
still lacking the power,
still failing to affect change.

Photo Credit: Shirley Tanzella
(Oak Meadow)

Wanting, wanting, wanting to affect change,
Trying to force revolution out of my pen.
Building weapons to battle the power
hungry war-machine, but my ink
spills over to form broken words,
broken images on the page.

Frustrated, I rip the page
into pieces, that’s my change.
I reach for a new sheet, that new words
might follow. Afraid my pen
cannot erase the ink
of others, the permanent stench of the power.

Lead boot prints of power
tear holes in my page,
black and blue ink
bruises beat me, no change
they scream, breaking pens
and banning new voices, new words.

The banished words
hold all the power,
and the gunpowder pen
burns my palm and page,
demanding I write the call for change
demanding I carve new voices in fresh ink.

Progress is marked by ink
lines drawn in blood, battle words
and wounds whose mouths cry change.
Bury the patriarchy, power
drunk bastards with blood pages,
scar their rank flesh with my pen.

Ink tears bleed power,
and I craft words on torn pages,
changing, changing, changing the world
with my pen…

 ___________________________________________________________

Great idea!

Benjamin Franklin
Photo Credit: Public Domain

My father is about to turn 94 and consequently, we go all out for his birthday parties! We have a tradition of having him tell us what he was doing at the present age of each member of the family. This past year the youngest among us was a great grandson just 13 months old. It was fun to hear my father speak about what he was doing when he was 13 months old. The oldest at the party was 68 years and that too was amusing!

We decided this year to list many of the things that had been invented in the years since our father (grandfather or great grandfather) was born. Each family member brought a description of the invention to the party. Wow! He has certainly seen many, many inventions in his lifetime!

Photo Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. (Public Domain)

I think we take for granted some of the inventions he saw in his lifetime, such as the color TV or the black box flight recorder. Lithium batteries and the pocket calculator surprised all of us as just being invented in the 1970s.

Not only do I think we take these inventions for granted, but I think we also pay little attention to the people that invented them! Physicists, biologists, chemists, carpenters, farmers–you name it and you may find a profession that has an inventor. Where do these inventors come from? “From 1900 onwards, on average about 10% of Americans have been first-generation immigrants. Yet first-generation immigrants have won 33% of all American Nobel prizes in the sciences since the award began in 1900, representing thirty-five countries from six continents.” (https://m.facebook.com/notes/neil-degrasse-tyson/science-in-america/10155202535296613/)

All this talk about past inventions got me wondering what is being invented (and patented) right now! I found out about The Lemelson-MIT Program which strives to celebrate  “outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.” It is so interesting to read about the most recent inventions that are being awarded!

Do you have something that you are working on that will one day be an invention that will benefit us all? Join an inventor’s club! Here’s a list of them by state: http://www.freeinventorshelp.com/Organizations.html#states

Good luck!

On Poetry

by Antony Yaeger, Oak Meadow teacher

Photo Credit: Szmodis Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Having studied poetry with amazing teachers in my life, and having honed my own craft at Sarah Lawrence College, it is a joyful and enriching experience to teach poetry at Oak Meadow. What makes poetry so unique is something discussed in our poetry course: Poetry is a universal art form that can be found in all aspects of human life and can hold within it elements of all other art-forms. Poetry is not bound solely to the page. The famous phrase “poetry in motion” is a purpose of graceful fluidity, such that moves with tactful elegance throughout. Abstract, yet direct and completely beautiful to all 5 senses. We live with poetry every single day, even if we don’t have time to pick up a book.

To find poetry in the world, we often look to nature. To try to create an essence or impression of nature in art, we often turn to poetry. In my teaching, I try to teach in a way that takes into account my student’s developing mind as well as their heart, blending the two with their imagination. Poetry is one perfect way to do this. Each student brings their own unique perspective to analyzing a poem and their own special voice to the crafting of their own poems. Poems can be successful in any number of ways, but calling on the senses of our readers is crucial.

Photo Credit: Starkus Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

What makes poetry even more incredible is that the reader is welcome to read between the lines, to string together their own meanings and ideas, to bring their own working palette of comprehension to the experience of reading. I feel this way with my students in this distance learning course and in the monthly poetry workshops we have created together. In these workshops, students celebrate their classmates’ poems and give them the gift of constructive feedback. It is amazing to see how perceptive each student becomes, how kind and selfless they are in making another poet’s poem better.

Poetry exists around us all, and you can read into that statement all that you want! For it’s not simply an abstract or ambiguous thought, but a truth waiting for us all to discover.

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Antony Yaeger received his undergraduate degree in Poetry and Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and his Masters of Science in Education and Waldorf Education from Sunbridge College, New York. Antony spent four years at the East Bay Waldorf High School in Berkeley, CA teaching poetry, photography, literature, and directing school plays. In 2009, Antony graduated once again from Sarah Lawrence College, this time earning a Masters Degree in poetry and creative writing. He encourages students to use writing as a tool for self-exploration and to gain clarity and perspective on world events by examining issues from new angles. 

For more information on enrolling in Oak Meadow’s semester-long high school Poetry course with Antony Yaeger, click here.

For more information on purchasing Word: The Poet’s Voice curriculum for independent use, click here (on sale for the month of April 2017 in honor of National Poetry Month!)

You’re the Expert!

Have you ever wondered how homeschooling works for ordinary parents? It’s true: Most of us do not have advanced degrees in education or child development. Most of us are just ordinary people who went to school like every other kid we knew and never imagined we’d be homeschooling our own children someday. How can an ordinary parent possibly be qualified to be a home teacher?

Photo Credit: Nevada Wolfe
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Good news! You certainly can successfully teach your children at home. You are already doing it. Home teaching is a natural extension of parenting. You’ve been a teacher since the moment your children arrived to join your family. You’ve simply followed your instincts to figure out what they need and figure out how to best meet those needs, whether the solution is something you do on your own or seek outside help with. This is what teaching is all about.

As you go about your daily life, you teach through example and by explaining what you are doing and why. You answer questions and challenge your children to come up with some of the answers themselves, sometimes, too. You pay close attention to them as you explain many things and support them as they try things on their own. You bolster their courage as they grow in new ways. You know more about them than anyone else in the world!

Photo Credit: Neil Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Although you may not have an advanced degree in education, you do know how to tell when your children are open to learning something new and when they are not ready. You know when they are feeling confident and when they need extra support. You know how to tell when something really isn’t working for them, and you know just when to switch gears when that happens. You can read their signals better than anyone else can. And using a packaged curriculum can give you the peace of mind that, pedagogically, you are offering an optimal learning experience.

Photo Credit: Kelly Weiss
(Oak Meadow Archives)

As a homeschooling parent, you are an educational coordinator, especially if your family takes advantage of teaching resources such as in-home tutors or classes outside the home. If you don’t feel capable of teaching French or Calculus because you never learned it yourself, you can engage a local or distance learning teacher to handle that subject with your children. If you are afraid your lack of confidence with math will interfere with their ability to develop a love for it, don’t worry – just get some help from someone who really does enjoy teaching math. If your children are learning primarily at home, even if they are also taking classes or lessons here and there, you’re their home teacher – and in the best position to support their learning.

Photo Credit: Szmodis Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

For a homeschooling parent, sometimes a little boost of confidence can go a long way. Seeking outside help when you need it is important. If you would like to learn more about tools and techniques that can help you be more confident as a home teacher, Oak Meadow’s Foundations in Independent Learning course is a great place to begin. One or more homeschool support sessions or the ongoing support of an accredited distance learning program can also be a great help. Most homeschooling parents do not have a teaching certificate or an education degree, and yet most homeschooled students learn what they need to learn and grow into capable adults.

Consulting outside experts who might be helpful to you doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to be a home teacher, but that you are capable of being a very effective home teacher. And as the home teacher, you are the one who most aware of what your children needs. You are the primary expert on your own children, and you are capable of homeschooling them!